Wednesday, April 8, 2015

**GIVEAWAY** Review + Interview with TJ Turner – Lincoln's Bodyguard

I'm so pleased to introduce debut author TJ Turner, who is here talking about his new (just yesterday) released Lincoln's Bodyguard. Its described as an alternate history which I'm a huge fan of so I had to read it and I'm so glad I did. So sit back and enjoy our short chat, my review and then if you're feeling lucky maybe you'll win your very own author signed copy of the novel. Giveaway details are below.

TJ take it away!!

  • ISBN-13: 9781608091430
  • Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/7/2015
  • Pages: 283


In Lincoln’s Bodyguard, an alternative version of American history, President Lincoln is saved from assassination. Though he prophesied his own death—the only way he believed the South would truly surrender—Lincoln never accounted for the heroics of his bodyguard, Joseph Foster. A biracial mix of white and Miami Indian, Joseph makes an enemy of the South by killing John Wilkes Booth and preventing the death of the president. 

Read an Excerpt:

March 1872

I approached the White House slowly, my first time back in seven years. I left after saving the Old Man, after things changed. Washington looked as before, but the feel of the place had shifted. No one loitered or met the gaze of fellow citizens on the street. A cold city—scared. There were rumors of attacks in the heart of the Capital, of daring rebel assaults in broad daylight, meant to terrorize. The papers never reported them, but the rumors circulated, passed by word of mouth until truth and myth were intertwined but unreconciled.
As the sun reached higher the fog dissolved around the White House. The building took shape, a gray mass against the pure white of the mist. Something deep nagged that I should ask admittance and let the walls of the palace shield me.
I took the letter from my breast pocket. My fingers traced the outline of my name.

Feb. 22, 1872
I know much time has passed unspoken between us, but there is something important to discuss. Please, I need you.
—A. Lincoln

Please. The word pleaded through the letter. Maybe I assigned it gravity beyond its intent.Please. I tucked the letter back into my breast pocket.
Once inside, my fingers tingled, anticipation mixed with fear. Two soldiers led me down the corridors I knew so well. An air lingered about the place, a scent—musty with the taste of history and power, like the building itself sweat it from the walls. My shoes found the well-worn path, the slight indentation down the middle of the carpet from decades of wear. We walked past closed doorways, behind which my mind could paint every turn in vivid detail. With my eyes shut I could walk to the Old Man's study, take my post along the back wall, and blend into the dark green wallpaper. I was home.
One of the soldiers showed me inside the great wood door. The room was empty. Two windows laid claim to the far wall, spanning from floor to ceiling. The first framed the Washington Monument. It remained partially complete, the sun blinding off the bleached white stone. During the War, maps plastered these walls, obscuring the wallpaper as they tracked battles and the movement of armies. At times they covered the windows. Without the maps the place felt empty, but the walls knew the truth.
I walked to the middle of the room, something I rarely did in my earlier days when I preferred a solid structure at my back. The fire hissed, a few pops betraying overly wet wood placed into the flame. A table stood in front of the fireplace and I ran my fingertips over the edge. It hadn't budged in years, the carpet under it more plush and vividly green than elsewhere.
A map covered the wood tabletop, its corners curled from repeated rolling. It showed the South, the land from Richmond and below. Even though the generals had surrendered their swords, the fighting raged on. The War wouldn't give up. Though no longer the boil of '63, she simmered, nine years later. She still claimed lives, and would until the day she died. The Confederates had disbanded their armies to mold themselves into an efficient enemy—small networks of rebels who attacked and then dissolved into society. Fighting ghosts. Small x'sdotted the roads in all directions.
Ambush sites.
"How are you, Joseph?"
I never heard him coming, one of the things I hated about this carpet. Anything could creep quietly behind you.
"I'm fine, Mr. Lamon."
Ward Hill Lamon, the President's right hand. He had always despised me. His body language betrayed him. I had worked for Allan Pinkerton, the famed detective and forerunner of military intelligence, while Ward Hill Lamon was the President's best friend, advisor, and confidant. They competed for the Old Man's loyalties.
"I see the President's note found you. Mr. Pinkerton told us to expect you today."
I played over his intonation in my head, searching his choice of words. He stood more bent, though he still cut an imposing figure. His suit spoke of wealth and power. How a man composes himself and how he dresses tells an immense amount about his status, both real and self-imagined. In this, Lamon had grown more powerful than last we met.
"Will Mr. Pinkerton be joining us?" I asked.
"Not today. We need to discuss matters of great sensitivity, and discretion will be the priority. There are things he doesn't need to know. Do you understand?"
I lied and nodded. Another political chess match.
"Do you know why you're here, Joseph?"
"I received the President's letter. That's all I know."
"When the President arrives, we'll explain the situation. He insisted on having you. It's only proper we wait for him. I'll go check on things."
He turned to leave but then stopped. "Joseph, I don't want to leave you with the wrong impression about Mr. Pinkerton. Someone is reporting to the enemy—a fox in the henhouse, as the President would say. I have long suspected it to be among Pinkerton's people. These things happen, but what we will discuss cannot be compromised. The very life of our nation depends on that."
"My loyalty belongs to the President alone," I answered.
Lamon considered my reply. "Very well. I will not mention it again. If the President trusts you, that will suffice." This time he turned and left. When the door closed, I stood alone.
I turned to the little marks that littered the map in front of me, filling the roadways from Richmond all the way south. Parts of Louisiana and lower Mississippi had a line drawn across. The country remained divided, the result of a failed surrender. When General Joe Johnston walked from the negotiation table years ago, the Old Man had called it the greatest treason. It surpassed even General Lee or Benedict Arnold. Other rebel leaders followed. Eighty thousand men burned their uniforms and returned to their farms. They melted back into the fabric of the South. But they kept their guns and the country knew no closure.
As I studied the map a younger man entered the room, resplendent in a three-piece suit fashioned from a shimmering cloth. Behind him the Old Man filled the doorframe, pausing to get a good look at me before he walked across the room with the aid of a cane.
"Joseph," he held out a hand after switching the cane. "How we both have changed. I'm afraid that in beauty, neither of us has any more to claim, my friend."
His hand felt frail, the bones barely covered by the tissue paper masquerading as skin. Tall and thin, he towered above me still. I felt like a child. The cane in his hand forced him to stoop—too short for his height. His suit hung loosely, indicating weight lost. His knee-length jacket appeared hollow, his neck gaunt inside the white collar and bow tie. But time had weathered his face the most. The lines were deep and furrowed, as if recently plowed. His beard had grayed, and his hairline retreated. It had only been seven years, but the office had drained him, pulling his very essence from the shell of his suit.
"It has been too long." He motioned for me to sit at the table with him as the younger man circled the room and stood along the back wall, like I had done for years. Lamon entered the room and closed the door behind him. He joined us at the table.
"How is your mother?" The Old Man asked.
The question caught me by surprise, amazed at how far her influence spread. In retirement she had become famous, articles published on her exploits, the newspapers using her story to blot out the little marks on the map.
"She is fine, sir, the last I checked. I haven't seen her in a while."
"She was here once, did you know?"
"No." In my mind some worlds were never meant to mix.
"Many of the conductors came, your mother, Harriet Tubman, a few others who risked so much. I hosted a ceremony and a banquet. Several years back now. She told me a few good stories about you. To think, the things you withheld in our time together."
The event would have been bald-faced propaganda arranged by Lamon to mask the sour reports from down South. My mother would cringe if she heard herself called a distraction.
"I hope we find time to catch up, Joseph. But my schedule is worse than ever, and I am sure you are wondering why you are here." The Old Man nodded toward Lamon.
"As you might suspect, Joseph," Lamon began, "the rebellion has grown." He flattened a curled edge of the map. "Some say we are losing. A fight like this is ugly, and even with our best efforts we have been unable to rid ourselves of it.
"But we have a rare opportunity. A senior member of the resistance wants to end the fighting. The information he has would be devastating for the rebels. We could break them—push the fight out of this stalemate." Lamon swept his hand across the map.
I looked to the President. He held one hand across his chest while the other rubbed his beard.
"Who?" I asked.
Lamon looked to the Old Man before answering. "Norris."
"Colonel Norris?"
The weight of the name caught me off guard. It made me nauseated. I slouched, grateful for my chair, letting it hold my weight. Col. William Norris had been the head of the Confederate Secret Service during the War, Pinkerton's nemesis. The end of the organized fighting accelerated his rise as leader of a decentralized yet effective resistance. I tried to kill him once and damn near succeeded. His name appeared last on my list—a roster of the men who left my wife for dead and took my daughter to avenge their failed attempt to kill the Old Man.
"He grows tired of the fight," Lamon answered. "I believe his letters and the promises of his envoy to be sincere. He sees the error of this conflict—that nothing will improve until we close this final chapter and move forward."
I looked at the Old Man. He was lost in thought.
"So what do you want from me?"
"He requested you," Lamon's voice was flat.
"Norris did? Why? Last time you sent me to bring back his body," I said.
Lamon provided the list that I had worked from.
"There's symbolism for him. You killed Booth, and Norris planned the attempt on the President. He says he will trust only you."
"Maybe he means to kill me?"
A smile flickered on Lamon's face before he suppressed it. "He's gone to a lot of trouble to convince us he wants to come in. Do you suppose you're so important?"
"No," I lied. But that was exactly what I thought. Years ago I had made a deal with Norris—a deal to spare my daughter. Unable to do what he asked, he would want me dead for my failings. "Even if I agree, how am I to find him?"
"He provided meeting instructions. You will take Baxter with you," Lamon said.
Lamon motioned to the young man standing along the wall. "Mr. Winston Baxter, the President's security advisor."
The suggestion surprised me. I glanced at the man in the shiny suit standing against the bookcase. He was almost ten years my junior and far too confident for his age. Proximity to power can have that effect. The light material of his suit shimmered, the cloth likely from Europe. Polished leather boots extended under the pleats in his trousers, and his slicked-back hair lent an oily appearance.
"I work by myself." I turned toward the Old Man.
"Absolutely not," Lamon answered. "You have a history with Colonel Norris, and we cannot run the risk of that past getting in the way of what needs to be done. You'll forgive me, but the stakes are too high to trust this matter to you alone. You'll take Baxter. He knows the particulars of finding Norris. There is no room for compromise on this."
"Why would I take someone of such little—," I paused, trying to find a word that would somehow diminish Baxter and Lamon alike, "—experience."
Lamon smiled. "You and Baxter are quite alike. He is young, but not green. You will find him a hard customer, with more starch than one his age should lay claim to."
Baxter stood motionless along the bookshelf—a complacent look on his face. A partner would make killing Norris that much harder.
"And if I say no?"
The Old Man reached out and placed his hand on my arm. "Please, Joseph. This is my chance to end this. I had so long planned to leave after my second term, like Washington himself, or Jefferson. But I promised I would not step down until the country was whole. I came in with this mess, and I will see it done right. I fear that with my stubborn disposition and with Congress refusing to impose limits on the office, I may never leave unless something helps us end this war."
I avoided his eyes. They would remind me of my dying wife as I held her, and of Aurora, the little girl stolen from me and, if still alive, old enough that I might not recognize her.
"Good," Lamon said. "You will leave tomorrow morning. Baxter will guide you to the meeting, and then you'll both escort Colonel Norris to Washington. If there are no issues, we'll have his sword this time next week."
"Thank you, Joseph," the Old Man said.
Lamon stood and placed a hand on my shoulder. "We need Norris alive." His voice lingered on that last word. "That's why Baxter goes with you tomorrow."
I nodded, though I would never let Norris speak of our arrangement to save my daughter. Lamon headed toward the door, leaving me with the Old Man, who struggled to rise. I helped him to his feet.
"It is so good to see you, Joseph. I'm afraid I have a cabinet meeting. But you will stay the night." The Old Man looked to the door and Lamon. Baxter held it open, not looking our direction. When they were out of earshot, the Old Man lowered his voice. "We will visit later. There is another purpose for my letter."
Baxter escorted me to my old bedroom. It was redecorated as a guest room. Hot water filled a bathtub in the corner, and I stripped, anxious to wash days of travel from my body. The heat penetrated to my core. I fell asleep, only waking when the water cooled beyond comfort. A set of fresh clothes hung in the small closet, nothing extravagant like Baxter's suit, but better than what I had relied on to get me to Washington. I changed and fell back on the bed, slipping into a deep sleep. I didn't wake until late in the afternoon.
When I stirred, I found a tray perched on the bedside table with a half-filled bottle of whiskey and a glass—Pinkerton's whiskey. Lamon had excluded him from the meeting, but he knew how to look after me. He also meant the bottle as a message. Sooner or later I would have to face him. After Lamon had handed me the list with Norris' name, Pinkerton had counseled a more subtle path. But with my daughter gone and my wife dead, his influence proved of no avail. Revenge robbed my sanity. He would be upset with me still, so it would be best to visit when he least expected it, especially since they had taken my weapons when I entered the White House. I filled the glass and downed my first drink. It had been hours since my last, and my hands were beginning to shake.
To pass the time I unpacked my bag, filling my flask from Pinkerton's bottle to ensure a supply for the road. I refilled the glass and packed a second set of clean clothes. Putting the bag away I pulled out a small black velvet pouch, the only possession other than my knife that I cared about. Living light made life easier. In a hurry, I had little to leave behind. Even as the years passed, I hadn't collected many possessions—or friends. Habits were hard to break.
I dragged a chair to the one small window and pulled at the strings of the velvet bag. I rarely opened it, only in those sparing moments I wished to remember Aurora. Releasing the drawstring, I upended the bag into my hand. A silver necklace fell out—the evening sunlight caught the polished edges. A small pendant dangled on the chain, a tiny and amazingly detailed eagle's feather. My stepfather had been a silversmith, an incredible artisan. He tried teaching me his craft, but my hands were better for coarser tools, like a Bowie knife. He was a progressive man who took in a pregnant Indian woman, and after I was born, he molded me with his fiery dinner table orations. He preached extreme abolitionist views that he kept none too hidden. They would eventually account for his death. But he drilled me on my lessons every day, and ensured my education was second to none across the Kansas plains. He intended me to return as a great chief to my mother's people. How wrong he had predicted my destiny.
The feather nearly floated in my palm, as if it might catch the draft from the fireplace and take flight. I never had that kind of skill, to make something of such fine beauty. If I could, the world would be a different place. I struggled to hold it still as the whiskey had yet to drown the shakes. At one time the feather had a twin, a pair of earrings made for my mother—a reminder of her Miami Indian ancestors. With the birth of my daughter, my mother split them up, one for my wife and one for the baby. I only recovered the one around my wife's neck.


Giveaway is US ONLY
for One Print Copy
Lincoln's Bodyguard
Sponsored by Oceanview Publishing
Good Luck!

TJ, Hi! I’m really enjoying your debut novel Lincoln’s Bodyguard.
Tell my readers a bit about it please.
Fantastic! I’m so glad you’re enjoying it. Lincoln’s Bodyguard is work of historical fiction, and maybe most importantly, alternative historical fiction. The story is told from the perspective of the bodyguard who saves President Lincoln, and the America that unfolds if our greatest president had been saved. To me it’s important to note that I essentially take history that we all know off course for about a 7-year period, and then find a way to set it right back on track. And the ‘America that might have been’ as I envision it in the novel, isn’t quite what most people might expect!

I really enjoy alternate history novels it answers all the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if onlys’ that I as an incurable curious person enjoys exploring.
Where did the idea to write this novel come from?
So the idea for the novel really unfolded with the title. I was driving home one evening and had NPR on the air. Terry Gross was interviewing someone about Abraham Lincoln and the events surrounding his assassination, and she said something to the effect of: “Imagine if the President had a bodyguard!” I remember thinking almost immediately that Lincoln’s Bodyguard would make an awesome title for a novel. It also caught me at a perfect time, as I had been struggling with an earlier novel that I hadn’t found representation for, and was toying with giving up writing entirely. So it was like a bolt out of the blue, and the entire first draft was written in about 6 months.
Beyond that, the more I researched the time period for the novel, particularly the outcome for the nation if Lincoln had survived, the more I saw a landscape that was just rich with conflict and drama—perfect for a novel! I think most people today have a sense of historic nostalgia when they look back on President Lincoln. We know him now very differently than he was perceived at the time. So while the prevailing belief among our current population is that Reconstruction and the healing of the nation would have happened sooner or more easily if he had lived, several historians have postulated that his death was almost necessary to make the remaining Southern armies surrender. Combine that fact with my experience from Afghanistan with an active insurgency, and I knew there were themes that could resonate with today’s world.

TJ the country you describe is a dark reality and in the novel the idea of destiny and fate often comes to mind.
Is this the effect you wanted readers to feel?
Exactly. I’m glad that came across. I’m fascinated with what have been called tipping points in history—times or events where a very small action resulted in a huge impact, especially as time fans out from the event. In American History, I think there are only a few that rise to the impact that Lincoln’s assassination had upon the nation. And the more I research the time period, and Lincoln himself, the more I’m struck with just how amazing a man Lincoln was. He was the perfect person for the crisis the nation encountered, as if he was placed here for that very reason. Before his rise to the Presidency, he had a very mixed election record. In fact, he lost way more than he won. He rose to prominence quite quickly through the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and then was elected as our president. Once in office, the nation quickly fell apart, and it was in no small part his cult of personality that willed the nation through the war and back onto a track that kept us together. He knew how to use executive authority—expanding it like no president before him—how to politic with those on opposite sides of the political divide, and even how to use his soft power to make concessions yet still plot a path forward. It was destiny that the nation had him as our leader. I think it’s terribly unfair, although history is littered with injustices, that he never saw the country made whole again. So I wanted to right that wrong as well! And so the idea of destiny and fate I believe feels so interwoven with that time in our country’s history, that I wanted Joseph and Molly, and the entire novel to be swept up in it.

TJ Joseph Foster is your protagonist/hero in Lincoln’s Bodyguard.
Is he totally made up or did you invent him on the basis of someone you know?
Joseph is a composite of many people and ideas. When I started thinking about who Joseph should be, I wanted someone who stood on his own as a character, even with Lincoln in the picture. Although this is fiction, I wanted someone who might have been overlooked by history so that it was plausible he might have been there the whole time, making that transition from the real history to my alternative America a little less bumpy. In envisioning that, his background became especially important. As a half-Native American, he could have been overlooked by our textbooks. In addition, there’s a certain symbolism to his bi-racial background, and the violence of his conception. He’s as American a symbol as I could ever dream up. Beyond that, elements of his flawed and tortured character are based on people I know—almost all from my military experience. I have plenty of friends who have done the most dangerous missions you could think of, and they’re haunted by what they saw. That’s Joseph.

TJ your first experience with writing at 8 must have really stuck with you for you to be a published author now.
Where did the love of writing come from at such an early age?
I have no idea! But as I watch my daughter now, who at 9 claims she wants to be a writer, no doubt that seed can be planted very early! She writes poetry and stories, and in fact, was dictating stories for my wife and I to write down before she could write or even read! I was the same way. I always loved to write. I remember writing books in Elementary school, where I drew the pictures and had the whole thing laminated and crudely bound. That fascinated me. The fact that I remember that so clearly, and still have that book (which is about the Civil War) just shows how powerful an impression it had on me. I have my first copy of Lincoln’s Bodyguard parked right next to that early book on my bookshelf.

TJ your bio tells readers that you served in the military.
First Thank you for your service.
And you penned your first novel while serving overseas although you said it was terrible.
What about that first experience of writing a full-length novel sticks with you still today?
It’s probably more correct to say that I finished it overseas, as that first novel was a several years in the making.  During grad school I had little time for any real reading or writing, other than all the science I was working on. But writing a dissertation (and mine was long), showed me that I could hold the thread of an idea and explore it for a novel length work—even if that was on materials science. When I left grad school I mentioned to Nancy (my wife) that I was considering writing a novel. I remember her laughing, and saying that would be too hard for me to do…or something like that. The exact wording is in dispute, and likely will be forever! The gauntlet had been thrown down! What sticks with me for that first novel is the fact that I could finish it. I learned so much about plotting, and pace, and characters, and story arc, and most of all…it was hard to write a novel! But…I could do it! I like to say that Nancy’s taunt was a kick in the butt. Sometimes though, that can be a step forward.

TJ your bio also tells us that you are a research scientist in your “day job”. While that sounds riveting is it your ultimate dream to be a full time novelist?
I would love to be a full time writer—absolutely would love it. My dream is to be able to quit my day job, and split my time between writing and building guitars. Lutherie is another hobby. I find when I’m stuck writing, that another creative outlet helps me unblock my dilemma. I want a workshop out back, with a writing office on a second floor…I can only dream!

TJ being a debut author means your acceptance I sold my book call is still pretty fresh in your head and I love happy endings.
Will you tell us about the call, where were you, how did it affect you?
It was late at night, I had been out in my workshop making a guitar as a wedding present for a friend I was deployed with, and when I came inside I found I had missed like 9 calls from my literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberley Cameron & Associates). She never called that many times in a row before! So I knew something was up. It was a surreal moment. The kids were asleep, Nancy was asleep, even the dogs were laying down somewhere, and I was standing in my dark kitchen talking to Liz as she told me she sold Joseph and Molly’s story to Oceanview Publishing! I tried to wake Nancy up to tell her, but she was too deeply asleep. So I went to bed that night as the only one in the house that knew, kind of an awesome feeling. I’ll never forget it.

TJ are you had at work on novel number 2?
I am! I had several ideas mulling around, including a prequel to Lincoln’s Bodyguard, but instead I settled in on a completely different setting. This one takes place in New York City during the Revolution, and is my take on the infamous agent 355—the female agent who reported to the Culper Ring (and therefore George Washington) and whose identity is lost to history—another person whom history has forgotten, yet who played a pivotal role in our nation. I’m about 2/3 of the way done, and I know it will need some editing to get the pacing up. But the most important thing to do is to finish!

TJ thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Good Luck with the novel!
Thanks so much for the interview, and taking the time to read my novel! I really appreciate it.

My Review

Its 1872, seven years since Joseph Foster saved President Lincoln from the bullet the assassin John Wilkes Booth meant for him. The countrys still in turmoil from the war that's officially been over for years but is still raging and each side is executing dastardly deeds and suffering huge losses. Lincolns tired and scared for the country and just wants out of office but has been forced to endure term after term. He needs his most trusted ally and former bodyguard Joseph for one last clandestine, very personal mission that will send him into the belly of the beast to achieve.
Joseph doesn't hesitate to answer the Old Mans call even though hes not as young or as capable as he was seven years ago. He knows he should travel this road alone but when his former lover and Union spy, Molly insists on accompanying him he selfishly accepts her offer, maybe he just needs a friendly face or maybe it's something else. But one thing he does know is that accomplishing this assignment may finally lead him to retrieve his kidnapped daughter.
Turners page-turning, nail-biting thriller is an amazing alternate history that fills the appetite of readers insatiable what-if curiosity and mixes in revenge, drama and a bit of romance to brilliantly widen the audience range. He successfully combines history fact and fiction and his gritty take-no-prisoners, narrative sets the tumultuous tone to the entire read. His characters are powerful and dazzlingly portrayed and his vivid, visual dialogue perfectly catalogs the atrocities and the altruisms during this endless, no-win war. Especially poignant was his post war draft; that will leave a lasting impression on readers.
If you like alternate history, thrillers, historical fiction or you just want to keep your heart beating fast for a bit of time this is your next must read.
Mr. Turner you
ve got my complete attention and I cant wait to see what comes next.

Connect with TJ - Website - Facebook - Twitter - Goodreads

TJ Turner is a novelist, a historian, a research scientist, and a Federal Agent. He graduated from Cornell University and as a reserve military officer, he has served three tours in Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal in 2013. His essay about his deployments to Afghanistan—The Power ofTeddy Bears—was accepted and read on NPR’s This I Believenational essay series. Turner lives in central Ohio, with his wife, Nancy, and three children.

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  1. I love that this is a darker read! Thanks for sharing this Debbie!

    1. Hey Ali, I LOVED it! Good Luck and thanks for the comment!

  2. This historical, thriller sounds enthralling and intriguing. Your great review gave me insight into the novel. Thanks for this feature and giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Hi traveler, thanks what a nice compliment. Don't forget to use the Rafflecopter form to enter

  3. This book was a great read, I found it hard to put down. It really makes you think about history and how one persons actions can change everything. I loved it!